Or should that be, “A good employee is hard to keep”? I am pretty sure every employer in our industry has run into the same HR issue of trying to figure out where to find good talent and dealing with the inevitable question of how to keep these assets productive in their own company, and not in their competitors’ companies. Employees are indeed the backbone of every company and without them you have nothing. Yet investing in them is easier said than done, though the costs of recruiting, training and ramping up are becoming more expensive all the time.
So how do you keep valuable people in your company? Is it more money? Or the promise of growth potential and a bigger title? With the relative buoyancy of the glass industry these past years and with many solid glass companies growing significantly in size over a short time-frame, quality employees have been able to leap-frog up in salary and position with amazing ease. There is a high demand for high-quality people out there and employers are willing to pay the premium at the moment—or at least pass these costs on down the line. I am just not sure this trend can continue though.
From a cross-generational perspective, my company recently hired a few bright millennials from outside the industry a year or so ago and I was pretty interested to see how they viewed their future after a couple months on the job. It seems that this generation needs to have their career paths mapped out in front of them in advance, in relative detail as well, and the expectation of success and growth is a pre-requisite in maintaining their employment. I think these days the pressure is now on the employer to live up to promises made and to not “bait-and-switch” just to fill the HR gap at the time. This approach is definitely a lot different compared to 18 years ago when I started in the glass industry where everyone seemed to be just happy to get a start and didn’t ask that many questions up front.
Embracing tech in the workplace
I hear from glass fabricators and glaziers these days that its really challenging to find young folks to start in the industry and stick around. Working with glass is tough and many newcomers just don’t last in the high-pressure work environment. Take the glass plant for example; employees have to off-load the tempering line in hot temperatures, wearing Kevlar sweaters with 4-inch collars for their safety. In a matter of weeks, some of these same employees quit to drive for Uber, or another, more comfortable job.
Fortunately, smart opportunists are coming up with tech solutions for these daily problems all the time, and smart employers are taking advantage of them. In this example, I now see a trend from personal protective equipment suppliers who are coming out with high performance cut-protection athletic clothing which now actually cools down the employee wearing it.
Likewise, companies are using technology to support remote access for project managers that have to manage high-pressure, complex glazing projects; these managers can manage multiple jobs from their home offices or from various locations via VPNs and webcams in a way that is highly accurate, flexible to their lifestyle and on their own schedule that totally beats sitting in traffic all day getting to the jobsite.
Programs such as www.myglassclass.com are also really excellent in providing newcomers the basic skillsets to ground themselves in glass and begin to start figuring things out. I highly recommend these web-based education platforms that are able to be used easily by employees on their own time, building their confidence and giving them the knowledge to be competent.
To conclude, retaining good employees these days has to be considered an ongoing process that starts at the top of the organization and works its way down. The two main ingredients to somewhat ensure this stability is to provide tools and systems that allow employees to be productive and efficient, and to provide a healthy and positive company culture that fosters growth. If you find it a challenging to retain your most valued assets, maybe you should check your recipe. Adding more money is seldom the fix.
Gareth Francey is the president of Bohle America, a supplier of glazing & handling tools, hardware, consumables, and machinery, for all levels of the glass industry. Francey has been with the Bohle organization since 2001 and led the American division since 2010. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.